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Court ordered defendant to respond to form interrogatories but it's past due. What is my next step?

Los Angeles, CA |
Filed under: Litigation

Defendant is not obeying court order. What can I do? I'm a Plaintiff in Pro Per Person.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

In California, a party may seek terminating sanctions against the opposing party for failure to comply with the Court’s prior discovery order.

Typically, if the Court grants a motion to compel discovery or a deposition and the party fails to comply with the Court's order, the next step is to seek more serious sanctions such as issues sanctions, evidentiary sanctions, or terminating sanctions.

"The court's discretion to impose discovery sanctions is broad, subject to reversal only for manifest abuse exceeding the bounds of reason." (American Home Assurance Co. v. Societe Commerciale Toutelectric (2003) 104 Cal.App.4th 406, 435 (affirming striking of defendant's answer). Although a party requesting terminating sanctions for failure to comply with discovery obligations normally must follow the “graduated sanctions” approach, that is not required where there is no indication that the imposition of lesser sanctions would compel compliance with discovery obligations. (See, e.g., R.S. Creative, Inc. v. Creative Cotton, Ltd. (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 486, 496.)

The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.

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Posted

This may not be 100% accurate in your State - but typically you file a motion to strike the answers and defenses of the defendant. Then, in theory you can move for default judgment although in practice the Courts will give the defendant at least one more chance.

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1 comment

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Posted

In California, your next step would be to file a motion for termination sanctions. it is tantamount to striking a defendant's answer and entering the defendant's default.

Posted

In addition to the sanctions mentioned by Mr. Chen, you can of course seek monetary sanctions and ask that opposing counsel be held in contempt for failure to comply with the Court's prior order.

Form interrogatories are pretty vanilla, though, so don't expect the court to get too excited by them unless you are talking about counsel's failure to list the factual bases for denying requests to admit (form interrogatory 17.1) or the bases for his affirmative defenses (form interrogatory 15.0). Often what happens is that the opposing party will file responses as soon as you file any motion regarding the issue, so you'll get your responses. They may have to do a little dancing to keep the court happy, but if they are pro se too or their attorney can put together a reason that is plausible, it's unlikely that the court will do anything drastic. If they keep ignoring court orders during the course of the proceeding and the Court perceives some sort of willful pattern of disobedience, then you may get some traction.

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Posted

I would consider filing a motion for (1) terminating sactions, or in the alternative, issue sanctions, and for (2) monetary sanctions for failiure to comply with the court's discovery order. For the first violation of the court's order, it is unlikely the court will grant a terminating sanction, even though courts have broad discretion to impose sanctions for disobeyance of a court order. There is better chance the court will grant an issue sanction, but in my opinion the chances are still less than 50%. However, there is an excellent chance the court will impose a monetary sanction of some sort.

Even if the court declines to grant terminating sanction or issue sanction, keep up the pressure on the opposing party (e.g., with further discovery requests, etc.). If there is a second violation of a court order, there is an exponentially increased chance the court will grant an.issue sanction or terminating sanction. If there is a third violation, there is a very good chance of a terminating sanction.

This response is for information purpose only and does not constitute a legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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